A hidden Vincent Van Gogh self-portrait discovered by x-ray

A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered on the back of another of the Dutch Post-Impressionist’s works.

Hidden Van Gogh

A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered on the back of another of the Dutch Post-Impressionist’s works.


The work was identified beneath the painting Head of a Peasant Woman (1885) at the National Galleries of Scotland collection, as part of a routine X-ray conservation before an exhibition.

Although appearing faintly, it depicts Van Gogh, one of the world’s most well-known and influential artists, wearing a handkerchief and donning a white neckerchief or cravat. His left ear, which he famously cut off in 1888, is clearly visible.

A spokesman for the Edinburgh-based gallery says the ghostly image “is almost certainly a previously unknown self-portrait by Vincent van Gogh”. It was found on the back of the canvas, hidden by layers of cardboard, and is thought to be a first for a UK institution.

Those who visit the exhibition, A Taste for Impressionism, at the Royal Scottish Academy, which opens at the end of the month, will now get a glimpse of something extra, as the newly found work is also now set to go on display. Specifically, visitors will get to view the X-ray image through a specially crafted lightbox.

Lesley Stevenson, Senior Paintings Conservator at the National Galleries, has described it as a “significant discovery because it adds to what we already know about Van Gogh’s life.”

“There is lots to think about with regards to the next steps,” she added, “but for us it is another little nugget to get us a little bit closer to an incredible artist.

“Knowing that it’s there in a painting, that’s in the National Galleries of Scotland in a collection that belongs to the people of Scotland, is incredibly important and significant.”

A Taste for Impressionism begins on 30 July and runs until 13 November. Click here to buy tickets and find out more.


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